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Voices of MainStreet: April Lee

Black Friday: Are you really saving money?

Nov. 22, 2010

If it were not for being asked what I am doing Black Friday, I would have forgotten about it, even though Thanksgiving and Black Friday are essentially synonymous in my family. Every year at Thanksgiving "dinner" – which is really more a lunch – strategy is plotted: Typically, the young ’uns (i.e., adult children) have to stay up late and wait in line for the big-ticket items while the parents go off to hunt for the "necessities," or not-as-expensive items. This used to be an exciting thing for me, but over the past few years I have become something of a minimalist. I have no personal interest in the purchases other than knowing others will be happy about the prices.

The reason low prices are important doesn’t bear repeating. It’s a tough time and saving any amount of money is welcome, though I don’t think buying something on sale necessarily means you are saving money. The consumer is only saving when compared with what it would have cost some other time; consumers continually overlook that they are still spending money. People tend to exclaim “Look at all the stuff I got for these low prices!” when the question to ask is why the product is being bought. Is it because the consumer was thinking about it before or because the sale itself is exciting?

Well, no one likes to hear practical questions when Christmastime (i.e. gift-giving time in secular and American culture) comes around. This time of year is supposed to be fun! (Yes, I know gift-giving is supposed to be about the thought, not expenses or necessity.)

After this Scrooge pops up in my brain, my next thought is how this is a great time to “boost” our economy. You know what they say: Spend money to make money (though I think Americans are a bit tired of that philosophy at this point). Personally, I feel it is wise to check out local store sales over the next week, save the big-ticket items for the bigger corporations, since they can afford to slash the prices more, and stick to what is useful – but not so useful you wind up giving another pen to your Grandpa. Does anyone do that anymore?

And if you’re anything like myself and aren’t a fan of big lines, don’t forget about the newest thing: Cyber Monday following Black Friday.

—April is a well-traveled young woman planting her roots in sunny Seattle, or well, just Seattle. Her writing covers whatever piques her interest and curiousity. Check out her blog here.

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